Wednesday, September 20

For You, Cherry Crest. 

I know it wasn’t the latest of trends. Then again, aren’t you people daubing all sorts of colors on your hair these days? Okay, I would perhaps have fared well had there been a Halloween costume extravaganza for bookmarks. But there aren’t any contests for bookmarks, except maybe, the implicit race that takes us to the end of one book, and onto the beginning of another. And that’s not even a race, as we are, in essence, competing with you, and with your books. Anyhow, I digress. I was talking about my good old faithful pelage - the cherry-red, fuzzy crest I proudly sported all these years. She complemented my washed-out canary hue rather well, and I always thought we looked good together. And now she’s gone.

She had quite a life --- wouldn’t you say? Fancy at times, with spells of plain pensiveness stretching into grubby expanses of time, like say, when I was left squashed between sides of Either and Or. I may well have been sheathed in warmth, but she had to endure being exposed to the cold, floury air, while the void, or occasionally, the night lamp, peeked at her mercifully, as she merely dangled in despair. I always knew when she was jovial - she sent an electrifying buzz down my spine. It was on those special occasions when you stroked her lovingly, or spiffed her up by brushing her gently, to rid her of all that dust. It’s a pity she didn’t get to learn much like I did, but she was just grateful to be there. However, she saw more of the world than I did, albeit transitorily, in airports, parks, buses, trains, stations, cabs, rickshaws, cars, on rooftops, and just about everywhere. And knowing her diligence, that must’ve done her a lot of good.

And so we cruised along our life’s journey, even though we would be stuck in eerie, unfathomable places for exceedingly long periods. There have been some mishaps along the way too, and I was never going to recount them if it hadn’t been for her passing. There was a time when we were traversing the great Abandon, and you accidentally spilled coffee on her. I’m sure the Iyer man could’ve waited till you sponged her up, but he continued to relate his tale and you kept stepping forward. Finally, when you retired that evening, and relocated me, she was taut with the grip of the desiccated stain, and the most I could do was commiserate with her. That night, my thoughts drifted between Sufism and self-reflection, and I decided that it would be best if I remained your loyal servant, especially considering I was a rather recent (a decade old) acquisition, and you hadn’t otherwise mistreated or abandoned me. And then I began to ponder about what you owned before my time, but I gave up because I didn’t want to feel blue anymore.

Then we re-visited some tomes, like Siddhartha, Jonathan Seagull, Swami and His Friends, and sauntered around for a while in the endearing folds of the Wodehousian classics. I especially liked embracing the sweet fragrance of those dried, pressed rose petals in Tuesdays with Morrie, and I’m sure they mean much to you, for reasons I shall not delve into. And then we were in a poignant mood for a while, navigating the likes of Orchard on Fire, The Bookseller of Kabul, and that made me reminisce similar feelings evoked by the likes of Cast Two Shadows, Possession, or say, Amsterdam, in the past. But we kept going, and we laughed with Meera Syal, Townsend, Bombeck, Barry and so forth. We traversed places with the Iyer man, Ms. Bird, Tania and Bernadette, Naipaul and a few others. Of course, we had our edifying stints with the APA Manual, HBR editions, Deal and Kennedy, Rourke, Wimmer and Dominick, and several others. We also went on poetic quests with Brosky, Bogan, Dickinson, Atwood and scores of others, and I must make a special mention of Speech O’er Spilled Milk here, it was something else. And somewhere along the way, I had mustered a competitive spirit, what with that fashionable fuchsia-toned, leather-bodied, shiny new adversary entering your life.

I roughed it out, and experienced, on many an occasion, the wretchedness of being disregarded. I was left moping desolately in a shell of lovelorn Haiku for eons, and had no sense of time, or word. The only way I could tell dawn from dusk was when my pelage glowed in distinct lights. Finally, you took me to a place filled with magic and mystery – the depths of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but before I could revel in my new-fangled destiny, you bequeathed me to the librarian who seemed to be in a bit of a hurry. She noticed me, and beckoned to you, but in a scuffle with the drop-box window, she rived me at the pelage. You nursed me, and tucked me cozily inside the Brand Positioning layers of Semenik, and I had my first encounter with Miss Magenta. I pored over her every pore, and noticed the tiny pair of doves she had etched on her in gold, like a gleaming Monsterrat amidst an isle of pristine pink. She wore a pretty ponytail, bound stylishly with a band of jagged-edged pelt. I must confess I was a trifle edgy and gauche being around her – she was soft, supple, and fresh as a daisy in that summer garden you took me to, bound in Marquez. But a tightening seized over us, which may well have been the work of your dainty fist, and I suddenly felt snug and secure (if you discount, of course, the fact that I was overwhelmed with feelings of being rather archaic).

That night, I bore an ache in my heart that no words can explain. My dearly beloved pelage passed - I had to let her go; it was inevitable, almost. She had endured a mutilation that was beyond repair, and the glue would perhaps have made her more and more discomfited. And the fact that there hasn’t been much of a breakthrough in paper surgery only made it worse. Today I recalled all those precious moments we shared, and I miss her a lot. She was my true crowning glory, and the little verse on friendship I carry on my hunch, I shall dedicate to her.

And now to us - we have many more words to imbibe and many more opuses to peruse. I really hope we can remain friends for a long time to come, and I have no qualms in letting Miss Magenta steer you through when I need some respite. I may be old, freckled, and wilting, but bear in mind, I have many friends (all your books are my friends), and I know more than you think (in my clan, age does bring some wisdom). Those Glimpses by Nehru, or say, those perplexing insights by Russel that you’ve passed up, I know them all. I know all about the beautiful russet woodpecker feather you had slipped in The Selfish Giant, and forgotten about. You need to allocate some more rapid movements and workouts for me, to help me stay fit; besides, learning, like hope, is a good thing. Well, I actually don’t mind staying here momentarily - Julie Ross is a delight, as are babies.

I’m not one to pompously display favoritism for genres, but I want to share one of my well-veiled secrets with you - I’ve really liked Ring Lardner, Bo and Albom, and needless to say, I like sports (I know you’ve been on and off with this). Do you think you could take me out to the ballgame, sometime? Oh, and you need a manicure.

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